Ice axes aren’t just for ice climbers - anyone venturing into high alpine environments in winter will benefit from having one of these and knowing how to use it. Whether you’re ski touring, mountaineering, or even just hiking on a glacier, you’ll appreciate the extra stability and security that carrying an axe can give you, and knowing the proper technique for an ice axe arrest is an essential mountain safety skill.
Black Diamond is the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Chouinard Equipment, the climbing hardware company started by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Having moved from California to Utah, where they have the Rocky Mountains on their doorstep, they have gone from strength to strength. Black Diamond now produce a whole range of outdoor gear, including head torches, clothing and even skis, but they’re still probably best known for their high-quality hardware.
“If you’re after an all-purpose ice axe that’s strong, lightweight and versatile, then the Venom is the one to go for..."
The Venom Ice Axe is a great example. Rather than aim this at ice climbing experts, they’ve built this with the general mountain lover in mind. They say it’s ideal for “technical ski mountaineering missions, classic glacier routes and moderate snow climbs with short cruxes".
The head on is made out of stainless steel, with a decent-sized adze. The pick shown here is a “Mountain Classic", but this can be unscrewed and replaced by any Black Diamond pick, should you want something more ice-climbing specific. The shaft has a slight asymmetric angle and features an adjustable “FlickLock" pommel which will give you a second grip when you’re climbing.
This isn’t the lightest axe in Black Diamond’s range, but it’s certainly not the heaviest either. The aluminium shaft helps keep the weight reasonable, and certainly when we were carrying this around in a pack full of splitboarding gear (collapsible poles, skins, a water bottle etc.) the 514g was the least of our worries, weight-wise.
If you’re primarily looking for a pair of axes to tackle ice climbs, you might want to look elsewhere - Black Diamond’s own Cobra, Fuel or Viper models would probably suit your needs better for starters. But if you’re after an all-purpose ice axe that’s strong, lightweight and versatile, then the Venom is the one to go for.
Black Diamond Venom Ice Axe